TEST DRIVE: BMW M850i Gran Coupe — Four is Better Than Two

8 Series, News, Test Drives | November 17th, 2019 by 3
BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe exterior 03 830x553

For proper grand touring, you want something that’s capable of eating hundreds of miles in a single jaunt and do so in style, comfort and speed. The typical example of automotive grand touring consists of driving through Europe in a long, two-door performance machine that’s equal parts sporty and luxurious. There are a few cars that give that typical GT example a twist, some working out better than others. What if, though, you take an already excellent GT and give it some more practicality? That’s exactly what BMW did with the M850i Gran Coupe.

The standard BMW M850i is an already excellent GT. It’s brutally fast, effortlessly comfortable and stylish. Adding two more doors and some added practicality doesn’t seem like it would actually make the car better, on paper. That sounds like it would make it heavier, slower and uglier. In practice, though, it’s quit the contrary. Adding those two doors and turning it into the M850i Gran Coupe actually makes it much, much better.

BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe exterior 11 830x553

European Model Shown

The More Doors the Better it Looks

I recently had the chance to drive the BMW M850i Gran Coupe in Spartanburg, South Carolina and it was my first exposure to the 8er GC in person. I’d loved its design since I first saw it in its press photos but it’s so much prettier in person. By adding two doors and a larger trunk, BMW has actually made its best looking car in ages. There are no two ways about it, the BMW M850i Gran Coupe is absolutely gorgeous.

The car I drove was wearing an Alpine White paint color with carbon fiber exterior accents and a black leather interior. It was a stunning thing in person, with curves for days. It’s both aggressive and elegant, with muscular haunches and smooth, seductive curves. Even though it’s essentially the same as its Coupe sibling up front, it’s entirely different from the B-pillar pack and it looks so much better. I absolutely adore the way the M850i Gran Coupe looks, especially in person.

BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe exterior 07 830x553

Back Seat That Can Fit Humans

One of my only criticisms of the BMW 8 Series Coupe is its lack of rear seat space. For a car that’s marketed as a 2+2, the 8er Coupe is essentially useless as such a car. Humans can barely fit in its rear seats, with even children being a bit cramped. However, the back of the M850i Gran Coupe is lovely. When sitting in the back seat behind myself (the seat in front adjusted for me), I had plenty of knee room and more than enough headroom. Admittedly, I’m not very tall (only 5’9″), so maybe I’m not the best just of back seat space. But I was more than comfortable.

The rear seats themselves are nice as well. Firstly, they look great, giving the rear cabin a premium and stylish feel. They’re also comfortable and supportive. However, there could be a bit more pomp in the back. There’s a nice enough little console between the two rear seats, which features climate controls and USB-C ports. That’s it, though, and for a car that costs over $121,000 as-tested, it’s not enough. It should have the same rear tablet as the 7 Series and maybe a nicer center console at that price point.

While the front seat is barely different from an M850i Coupe, that’s not exactly a bad thing. Touch points are perfectly place and everything you can touch is made from the richest of materials. You can sit nice and low and the h-point is near-perfect for a car of its nature. It might not be the most stylish of cabins but its fit-and-finish and ergonomics are top notch.

Though, simply having a bigger back seat makes the M850i Gran Coupe more special on the inside. From the driver’s seat, it looks and feels like a high-quality performance machine. But turn your head and you see two big rear seats and, potentially, the added passengers you stick back there. So the idea of being able to stick family or friends back there while still driving your gorgeous performance car is quite fantastic and just made the experience of the Gran Coupe better than that of its two-door sibling.

Looks Different but Drives the Same

There’s no question that the BMW M850i Gran Coupe looks different than the Coupe. From the behind the wheel, though, the differences are minimal. In fact, without driving the two back-to-back, I couldn’t feel a noticeable difference at all and I’ve spent a fair bit of time in other 8 Series Coupes and Convertibles, so I have a good idea of how they drive. Driving the M850i Gran Coupe felt no different than what I remember the Coupe feeling like.

That said, it’s still a great driving experience and, despite not feeling any different, the Gran Coupe version actually makes more sense from behind the wheel.

All M850i models — be it Coupe, Gran Coupe or Convertible — are very much grand tourers. They’re every bit as comfortable as they are fast, so they aren’t full-on, flat-out sports cars. Because of that, the two extra doors and two extra seats make the M850i Gran Coupe a bit more logical. It’s not a wild-eyed sports car, so sacrificing some weight for practicality makes no negative difference in how the car feels but makes it more usable more of the time.

Steering is essentially the same, which means it’s sharp and accurate. Front end grip is impressive, so you can place the big car exactly where you want to. Its chassis feels capable and planted, even if it’s not exactly playful. It will let you carve up a canyon road but it’s not going to slide around like a hooligan. Instead, it’s just a confident, capable car that’s fast and willing to go exactly where you point it.

The ride is also excellent. There’s a common feeling among car journalists that the M850i Gran Coupe actually drives better than the Coupe, due to its longer wheelbase and wide rear wheel track. Again, though, without driving them back-to-back, there’s no way I could tell if that’s true. It rides beautifully, soaking up bumps but never feeling too soft. So does the Coupe, though.

That familiar feeling continues onto its performance. Powering the M850i Gran Coupe is the same 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8 that powers the Coupe. That means it makes 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque and accelerates to 60 mph in a bit under 4 seconds. Specs don’t really matter, though. It surges forward with a silky smoothness that belies the rate of acceleration. Reaching illegal speeds is dangerously easy, as you can barely feel the sensation of speed through all of its refinement.

Looks Really Do Make the Difference

So in terms of the way it drives, there’s really not much that separates the BMW M850i Gran Coupe from the two-door Coupe. That’s not to say that I’m disappointed with the 8er GC, though. In fact, I’m smitten by it and there’s not a chance I choose the two-door Coupe if it’s my own money I’m spending. In fact, it’d be the last of the three M850i models I’d choose.

The BMW M850i Gran Coupe is the pick of the litter. It looks the best, has the most practicality and drives exactly the same as the Coupe. You lose nothing, in terms of performance or driving dynamics, but gain a ton in terms of looks and practicality. Yes, it’s very expensive and it could use a nicer back seat. But the fact that it has a back seat at all is a huge bonus. Plus, it just looks fantastic. I can’t wait to get it back home to live with it for a week.

NEWSLETTER